Leading Women: Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life

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Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life

Do women face a unique relationship with power?

Do successful women pay a “popularity penalty”?

How do women unlock their personal power?

Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and an expert in empowering women. She is the founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc., and for seven years she has interviewed influential women for online podcasts available on her website. Her new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life is aimed at helping women maximize personal power and improve their self-esteem and business success.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with her about her research and findings about women’s leadership, influence, and power.

 

“I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.” –Helen Keller

 

Now Is the Time

Despite some of the statistics you cite about income and other inequalities, you have a strong optimism about “now” as a wonderful time for women. Why the optimism?

I’ve been working for women empowerment all of my professional life. When I went back to college, and then during my doctoral research, very few people were talking about women empowerment. I felt very lonely.

Now, everywhere I look, people are talking about empowering women: self-help books, networking and mentoring groups, even the media. And why not? Women buy 85% of goods and services; it’s time for our voices to be heard. And as women are getting better at working together, I see a movement in which we claim our power and help one another create a better world.

 

“When we do things even though we are afraid, we grow.” -@DrNancyOReilly

 

“Successful women pay a popularity penalty.” Would you explain that a bit more? What should a successful woman do?

When a woman is successful, she risks denigration by her competitors, the media and other women and men. Studies show the more successful a woman is, the less “likeable” she is perceived to be. Look at a Hillary Clinton, when she was the most popular woman in the world and running for president, she had to deal with comments about her dress, her hair, how old she looked. It constantly undermined her credibility. Lois Phillips, one of my Leading Women co-authors, describes how women can build their credibility at the beginning of a speech, which men rarely have to do. Their credibility is assumed just because they are at the podium.

 

“One woman can change anything; many women can change everything.” –Christine Karumba

 

Think About the Next 15 Minutes

Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Lessons from Frank Perdue

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A Visionary Leader

He entered many of our homes via television, winning our hearts with his clever ads about his chicken.  Appearing in hundreds of ads, Frank Perdue turned Perdue chicken into a national brand.  “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” the ads touted.

Frank Perdue was a visionary business leader.  He focused on culture, leadership development, packaging, promotion, and operational excellence perhaps years before others.

Frank and Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission Frank and Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission

Recently, his wife, Mitzi Perdue, wrote a biography Tough Man, Tender Chicken: Business and Life Lessons from Frank Perdue.  The book paints the picture of the man, allowing us glimpses into his personal life, but also is full of business and leadership advice.

Mitzi herself holds a BA in government from Harvard, a masters in public administration from George Washington and was for years a syndicated columnist for Capitol News then Scripps Howard.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with her about her late husband.

 

“Find out what the customer wants and then make it better.” –Frank Perdue

 

Take Care of the Customer

There are so many business and life lessons in this book.  Let me just ask about a few areas.

One story you tell was about packaging.  It grabbed my attention because he wanted better packaging, but his team said no.  They said it was too expensive.  I know he was frugal, so his commitment to make it happen speaks volumes.  That little story says so much about his style and determination. Would you help us understand why this was so important to him?

Funny you picked on that story because it happens that I’m (I think) unusually qualified to comment on it.  My master’s thesis from George Washington University was on the importance of packaging.  I felt that the packaging of an idea or a product wasn’t as important as the content, but it was way up high as a consideration.  Frank intuitively understood this concept without having to get a master’s degree!  In the cases of the cartons that chicken was delivered in back in the late 1960s, it was pretty much industry standard to have flimsy boxes that might leave someone’s processing plant looking fine, but by the time they arrived at the distributor’s loading dock in a big city, the box might be crushed and leaking.  Crushed and leaking boxes were a mega-headache for the distributor because it’s hard to handle them on a forklift, and it’s unsanitary.  Frank realized that if he could create boxes that wouldn’t crush or leak, he’d be solving one of the distributors’ major problems.  His attitude was that as long as his goal was to be the best, the price almost didn’t matter, he had to fix the fragile boxes because, “We can’t afford not to.”  It fit in with his motto of, “Take care of the customer,” and the result was that when a distributor wanted chicken, he probably had Perdue on his speed dial. Packaging was an extraordinary competitive edge for us.

Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission Mitzi Perdue, Used by Permission

“A business that doesn’t change is a business that is going to die.” –Frank Perdue

 

Build A Culture of Disagreement

Take us into the culture of the company.  It tolerated disagreement and strong opinions.  As you say it tolerated “really forceful disagreement.”  How did Frank encourage this?  When did he, as a leader, stop the argument and unify the team?

Wasted Authority is Poor Leadership

My Hands Are Empty What Can I Do?
This is a guest post by Bruce Rhoades. Bruce is a personal friend and mentor. Having run numerous organizations, he is now retired. He reluctantly leaves his sail boat on occasion to help me with strategy, pricing, technology and product development issues. He also just joined Twitter. Follow him here.

Poor Leaders

All of us have experienced a leader who is controlling, arbitrary and makes decisions with little input from anyone while remaining un-influenceable.  Likewise, we have experienced a leader who does not delegate and demands that he or she make all the decisions while relegating dutiful implementation to subordinates.  These leaders mostly use positional authority to “run” the organization.  This type of leadership and management does not grow people, limits the potential of the organization and creates a stifling atmosphere with little collaboration.  Not good.

 

“Wasted authority results in weak organizations.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Wasted Authority

At the other end of the spectrum is wasted authority, a management trait that results in weak leadership that is also damaging to the organization.  What is wasted authority?  We have all probably seen examples of managers who exhibit this trait:

  • Delaying decisions and overanalyzing.  In a meeting, all the options for a decision are clear and a decision is needed.  But the manager asks for more analysis, delaying the decision for the whole organization.
  • Delaying decisions to hope for consensus.  Likewise, there is the meeting where options are clear, but there is disagreement among the subordinates in the meeting.  No more data is really needed and it is clear that the “boss” needs to decide.  Instead, the discussion goes on and on until the meetings adjourned with no decision.  The boss is waiting for a consensus to emerge…
  • Inexcusable behavior.  An associate has behaved in a manner that is inconsistent with the company expectations. It is ignored by the leader, repeatedly, with the excuse that, “That is just Jim.”
  • Wandering agendas.  The discussion in a group is wandering way off-topic.  The leader allows the discussion to ramble into many issues that are irrelevant to the real topic.  Before long, people are disagreeing on things that were not even supposed to be on the agenda.
  • The silent elephant.  Then there is the meeting where everyone knows about “the elephant in the room” – a huge issue that no one wants to discuss outright but everyone knows about. The meeting goes on as if nothing is wrong.
  • Poor customer response.  The organization’s response to a customer problem was poor, and the customer was ill-treated. The leader clearly knows about the situation but is too busy to look into the details. The customer complains no more so the issue is forgotten.
  • No recognition.  A particular associate has performed well above his or her norm and has done an exceptional job for a situation, but the manager says or does nothing, no “great job”, no recognition – just a “thanks” and moves on the next meeting.
  • Performance Ambush.  An associate made a mistake. The leader does nothing but a year later brings it up in a performance review with the associate.
  • Too many details.  Finally, the leader discusses a situation in excruciating detail, allowing the whole team to get mired in details, losing sight of the real issue. The whole team consumes great amounts of time needlessly.

I am sure that most of us will be able to add to this list of situations where authority was wasted and leadership lost.

 

“Culture and expectations are established via actions of the leader.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Wasted authority usually takes one of the following forms:

  • Indecisiveness when it is clear that a decision should be made
  • Failure to take action when cultural expectations are violated or associates misbehave
  • Failure to address large, well-known issues openly and directly
  • Inability to provide timely feedback to teach individuals and the organization
  • Ignoring customer issues that the organization simply takes for granted
  • Failure to frame an issue, articulate priorities and delegate to others

 

“Wasted leadership authority creates extensive organizational damage.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Wasted authority by the leader has many damaging effects on an organization:

 

Failure to decide

How to Make Your Next Meeting the Most Effective Ever

Multi ethnic business team at a meeting. Interacting. Focus on w

Do I Have To Go?

In every corporation and social enterprise, we find ourselves in meetings.  We dread going to them.  We love to complain about them.  We poke ourselves to stay awake in them.

Have you ever thought about how important meetings really are?

Ever consider that how you behave in a meeting may have more of an impact on your career?

What if there was a way to turn meetings into “remarkable conversations”?

 

Paul Axtell’s new book,  Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, was a surprise.  Why a surprise?  Because I admit I have groaned about too many meetings, so the thought of reading a book about them was supposed to be my cure for insomnia.  Instead, I found myself reading and re-reading it.  If your calendar has you stuck in too many ineffective meetings, you will find numerous solutions to changing the game in Paul’s new book.

Paul Axtell has been a personal effectiveness consultant and corporate trainer for 35 years.  All of that experience is put too good use in a book packed with advice to be more effective.  Note: this book goes far, far beyond the meeting.

 

“It took me fifteen years to make it look easy.” –Fred Astaire

 

Meetings Matter

Everyone loves to complain about meetings. Too many, too long, too boring. But your new book says meetings matter. Why are meetings such an easy target?

Meetings Matter CoverFirst, the complaints are usually justified.  Our time in ineffective meetings far outweighs our time in powerful meetings.  People are genuinely concerned about being more productive and taking less work home, so time not well spent is galling.  Finally, no one is standing up for the value and leverage that meetings can provide to a project or organization.  We’ve drifted into this place where we complain and don’t even hear ourselves complaining.  Poorly run meetings also start at the top, and from below it can seem like an impossible problem to confront. 

Paul, you raise the stakes to say, “Meetings are at the heart of an effective organization.”

Yes, if we include one-on-ones, meetings compromise most of a supervisor’s or manager’s day.  Meetings are a place and situation where clarity can be achieved, decisions made, alignment garnered and actions identified – all of which work to help forward the work of any organization.  Therefore, meeting skills are a core competency for employees.

 

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” –Seneca

 

Choose Your Perspective

Your new book outlines eight strategies for more effective meetings.  Let me ask about just a few.  Number one “Choose the perspective.”  It’s about being intentional, mindful, and catching yourself if you fall into negativity about a meeting.  Why is perspective the starting point?

I believe two things change behavior: perspective and awareness.  Perspective might be the more important of the two because with a disempowering perspective, strategies and tactics have less impact.  We’ve drifted into three perspectives that set us up for failure—meetings don’t matter, it’s not my meeting, and I don’t have to fully engage if I don’t want to.  Very difficult to run a good meeting when people walk in with these points of view.  Just imagine how it would be to lead a meeting where everyone walked in with an attitude that was shaped instead by these perspectives: meetings are leverage and I’m responsible for making this meeting turn out?

 

“It is indispensable to have a habit of observation and reflection.” –Abraham Lincoln

 

The 4 C’s of An Effective Conversation

15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

Perspective Arrows Leadership Concept

Conscious Leadership

Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner Klemp have just released The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.  It’s a practical leadership guide designed to help leaders become more conscious, take personal responsibility, and lead others in a win-win model.

If you need to pause, reflect more, and change your leadership style or behavior, this book will jumpstart your thinking.

 

Are You Above or Below the Line?

Personal responsibility and personal accountability are vitally important to success in any endeavor. You start the book with a simple but powerful model: Above the Line / Below the Line. Would you share that model with us?

The model is a simple black line.  At any moment a leader is either above the line or below the line.   When we are above the line, we are open, curious and committed to learning. When we’re below the line, we’re closed, defensive and committed to being right. What we suggest is that the first fundamental building block of conscious leadership is the ability to accurately locate yourself at any moment, asking, “Am I above or below the line?”

This sounds rather simple, but it actually requires a high degree of self-awareness.  Many leaders spend most of their time below the line.  In fact, it is the normal state.  Asking them if they’re below the line would be like asking a fish if it’s wet.  When leaders begin the journey to conscious leadership, they develop a greater and greater capacity to locate themselves accurately in any given moment.

 

“You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.” -Stephen Richards

 

Many leaders spend most of their time below the line because we go there when we are threatened or when we are in a fight or flight reactivity and the goal is survival.  Our brains are hardwired to do this.  This is normal.  It is human.  The issue is that this reactive pattern occurs whether the threat is real or perceived, and when the perceived threat is to the survival of the ego, we go below the line to protect it.  Many ego-driven leaders experience a fairly constant threat to their ego.  Thus they live and lead from below the line.

When leaders are below the line, they are in a low-learning state and create cultures of fear and threat. This results in lower creativity, innovation, collaboration and connection. When they’re above the line, they are in a state of trust, and the result is a higher level of effectiveness.

So the first key of conscious leaders is to accurately locate themselves either above or below the line. If they’re below the line, the second key to conscious leadership is to shift back above the line. Leaders master reliable shift moves that take them back above the line.

 

“The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.” -Brian Tracy

 

The Dangers of Right

I have also written about the dangers of always being “right.” Why do so many of us have a strong desire to be right at all costs?

The reason we are so committed to being right at all costs and to proving that we are right is that the ego doesn’t believe it can survive unless it is right. Being wrong is ego death. Being right, and more importantly being seen as being right, becomes our highest goal.

What we see is that conscious leaders become more interested in learning than in proving to everyone, including themselves, that they are right. The more secure leaders are, the less they need to spend time explaining, justifying, defending and proving their rightness and the more time they spend learning through deep listening, curiosity and wonder. As leaders learn to lead more from curiosity and wonder, they discover that breakthrough ideas come their way regularly. Also, the more leaders get deeply interested in learning over being right, the more their teams and organizations do the same.

 

“Conscious leaders are more interested in learning than proving they are right.”

 

The Drama Triangle

Would you share the “victim-villain-hero” triangle?

When we’re below the line, we’re in drama.  All drama is driven by three roles: the victim, villain and hero.

VICTIM

When I’m a victim, I’m living as though I’m “the effect of” people, circumstances and conditions.  I locate the cause of my experience as something or someone outside of me. I’m upset because a supplier didn’t deliver or the markets are down or there is bad traffic. It could also be that I’m happy, but the cause of my happiness is the circumstances outside of me. Victims never take full responsibility for their lives.

VILLAIN

Villains blame. They blame others, the collective and themselves. They move through life finding fault.  Villains believe something is wrong and their goal is to figure out who caused it.